Although the loss to West Virginia was only their first in 12 games, it underscored a pair of trouble spots for the ninth-ranked Georgetown men’s basketball team: cold three-point shooting and uneven rebounding.
The Hoyas made only 2 of 14 attempts from behind the three-point arc in Saturday’s 74-62 defeat, extending their shooting slump to three games. In all, they’re shooting 30 percent from three-point range since the start of Big East play, which ranks 12th in the conference.
Georgetown (13-2, 3-1) hopes to reverse that trend when Cincinnati (12-4, 2-1) visits Verizon Center on Monday, two days after the Bearcats’ seven-game winning streak was snapped by St. John’s at the buzzer. But it doesn’t figure to be easy for the Hoyas. Cincinnati sophomore Sean Kilpatrick and his teammates rank second in the conference in three-point defense, limiting opponents to 29.2 percent.
After Saturday’s loss in Morgantown, Georgetown Coach John Thompson III pointed to inadequate communication and execution on the defensive end of the floor as the primary culprit. Still, it was impossible to overlook the role three-point accuracy (or lack thereof) played in the Hoyas’ first loss since Nov. 21. They connected on only 1 of 8 attempts from long range in the second half, while the Mountaineers sank 3 of 6.
Thompson said Sunday that he’s not overly concerned about the three-point slump, in part because this season’s team is better equipped to handle one.
“We’re not a team that doesn’t want to make threes,” he said. “In years past, some would say we lived and died by the three. But I think this team, because of our versatility and the different ways we can score, it’s not as important. . . . I just think the ball hasn’t gone in two out of those three games.”
Georgetown opened the conference schedule an impressive 7 for 11 from long range at Louisville on Dec. 28. The season-best 63.6-percent performance fueled the Hoyas’ 71-68 victory.
Since that signature win, though, the Georgetown has made only 11 of 49 attempts, or 22.4 percent. While junior swingman Hollis Thompson has made five of his 11 three-point attempts the past three games, senior Jason Clark is 3 for 15 and sophomore Markel Starks has made only one of his nine attempts (after sinking all four of his attempts vs. the Cardinals).
The Hoyas’ three-point struggles were never more apparent than during a critical second half stretch against the Mountaineers.
With the West Virginia clinging to a 41-37 lead, Clark missed from beyond the arc. At the other end of the floor, Mountaineers senior Kevin Jones sank a three-pointer 14 seconds later, making it 44-37. Starks and Greg Whittington each misfired from long range attempts on the Hoyas’ next two possessions, and the hosts pulled away.
“That sequence was important,” Thompson said. “It was a stretch where, three possessions in a row, we took threes. This team doesn’t have to do that. At least two of those were not good shots. We were trying to answer them, as opposed to, ‘Let’s get the best shot.’ ”
Another area where Thompson would like to see improvement is on the boards. The Hoyas have been out-rebounded in each of the past three games, including a 37-31 deficit Saturday.
Georgetown has have only been out-rebounded five times; it happened in both losses.
Thompson said the key to reversing that trend is getting perimeter players more involved. Freshman forward Otto Porter leads the Hoyas with 6.8 rebounds per game, while Clark and Starks, the starting back court, rank fifth and 10th on the team, respectively.
The Bearcats, meantime, feature one of the conference's top rebounders in 6-foot-9, 260-pound senior Yancy Gates, who is averaging 9.1 per game to go along with 12.4 points.
“A lot of times, when it comes to rebounding, the focus on the front court,” Thompson said. “We need our perimeter guys to do a much better job of getting in there and running down rebounds, to help and support the guys in box-outs down there.”